Saturday, March 29, 2008

First Recording

Au Clair de la Lune 1860 (Click here to listen)

When I was a little girl I watched a "science fiction" program about a device that could extract sound from lava rocks from Pompeii. I thought of it when I read about this amazing discovery.

"The 10-second clip of a woman singing the song "Au Clair de la Lune" taken from a so-called phonautogram was recently discovered by Grammy-winning audio historian David Giovannoni, of First Sounds. The recording predates Thomas Edison's "Mary had a little lamb" — previously credited as the oldest recorded voice — by 17 years.

The sound waves were captured using a phonautograph, a device created by a Parisian inventor, Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville, that captured a visual record of sound.

The phonautograph etched sound waves into paper covered in soot created by a burning oil lamp. Lines were etched into the soot by a needle moved by a diaphragm on the device that responded to sound.

Giovannoni said, "When I first heard the recording as you hear it ... it was magical, so ethereal," He said. "The fact is it's recorded in smoke. The voice is coming out from behind this screen of aural smoke."

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